Firefox 54 is out, and the latest version of Mozilla’s web browser should be faster, more stable, and less likely to crash just because of a problem with a single browser tab.
After years of development, Mozilla introduced the first version of Firefox using multiple processes last year. But at the time that just meant one process would be dedicated to rendering web content, with a separate process used for the browser itself.
Now Mozilla has added true multi-tasking support, allowing each browser tab to run as a separate process. Well, kind of.
By default, Firefox will only use 5 processes: 4 for browser tabs and 1 for everything else. Mozilla says this helps reduced memory usage and improve performance, making Firefox 54 a bit less of a memory hog than Google Chrome, which doesn’t have the same restriction on the number of processes.
When you open more than 4 browser tabs, that means some tabs will share the same process without creating another instance of the browser engine. Mozilla says 4 processes should be enough for most users, but acknowledges that the browser could run even faster if you up the process count.
So if you have more than 8GB of RAM and aren’t worried about using it all up, you can increase the number of available processes by entering about:config in the location bar and then adjusting the number in the dom.ipc.processCount setting.
Meanwhile, if you find that after upgrading to Firefox 54 your browser still isn’t using multiple processes, you can try force enabling the feature.
Note that there may be one other thing keeping you from getting the most out of multiprocess support: add-ons. If you rely on Firefox plugins that don’t support the new multiprocess features, Firefox will disable the feature.
Looking to giving this latest version a go. I’ve been using Vivaldi on Linux for the last month for performance reasons only. Vivaldi did give me a chance to delve into the chrome store for the first time and I was able to load it up with plenty of similar FF extensions.
Still… Mozilla is the company I still trust the most. Hoping that rendering speeds, smart page displays (where page isn’t always shifting until fully loaded) and disk caching have improved.
I’m glad Mozilla is taking into account the increase in RAM usage and possible add-on breakage. Chrome is just too much of a memory hog for systems with lower amounts of RAM. I was concerned that Firefox was going to lose its ability to perform well on those systems. I was also concerned about losing my add-ons; that is another reason I have been faithful to Firefox over the years. So far this sounds like an excellent improvement.
It would be nice if they could code the number of separate processes to automatically scale to the available RAM. If you have 8GB+, then lots of processes, 4GB+ the default 5, less than 4GB, maybe just 1 or 2. So people with more powerful systems can take advantage of the speed increases while still allowing people with modest systems to continue to enjoy the low RAM usage.
Interesting. The reason I haven’t been faithful to Firefox is that I’ve lost access to add-ons too many times.
I guess I’ve been lucky. The add-ons I use have endured over the years. They haven’t always worked as well as they should. Sometimes after a major update they would be a bit wonky for a while, but the developers would work out the bugs.
Mozilla spent the last decade reducing memory footprint. In numbers Firefox beats Chrome quite often (especially in high tab usage, chrome quickly becomes a swap machine). Doesn’t necessarily translate in user visible perf though. Google Nicolas Nethercote he was part of the memory reduction team and wrote many articles about it.
Oh I believe you. Firefox (and other Gecko based browsers) has always impressed me with its low RAM usage, especially with light Linux distributions. I was concerned when they announced the new architecture that they were going to lose that. It’s reassuring that they are doing their best to minimize RAM increases. Plus, since they’ve been working for a decade to reduce RAM usage it means it’s a very high priority for them.
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